Strategic Afro-Modernism, Dynamic Hybridity, and Bebop's Socio-Political Significance

In Mathieu Deflem (ed.), Music and Law: Sociology of Crime, Law and Deviance, Volume 18. Emerald Books. pp. 129-148 (2013)
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In this chapter, I argue that one can articulate a historically attuned and analytically rich model for understanding jazz in its various inflections. That is, on the one hand, such a model permits us to affirm jazz as a historically conditioned, dynamic hybridity. On the other hand, to acknowledge jazz’s open and multiple character in no way negates our ability to identify discernible features of various styles and aesthetic traditions. Additionally, my model affirms the sociopolitical, legal (Jim Crow and copyright laws), and economic structures that shaped jazz. Consequently, my articulation of bebop as an inflection of Afromodernism highlights the sociopolitical, and highly racialized context in which this music was created. Without a recognition of the sociopolitical import of bebop, one’s understanding of the music is impoverished, as one fails to grasp the strategic uses to which the music and discourses about the music were put.

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Cynthia R. Nielsen
University of Dallas


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